Story by Hamse Abi '18
Some people have called this nation "a desert and "Africa’s best-kept secret" among others.
Prior to the unification with greater Somalia, Somaliland was a British protectorate. Then, when unification occurred, the result was the Somali Republic. The Somali Republic, however, quickly rose to military might, leaving Somalilanders feeling marginalized and sidelined from important government posts. This oppression culminated into the rebellion of SNM. Though the rebels initially hoped to keep the nation intact and simply oust the military regime, this planned proved unsuccessful. Instead, in the May of 1991, members of the Somali National Movement seceded from Somalia proper, declaring their independence as a new state called Somaliland. The rebels successfully ousted the government of the late Dictator Mohamed Siyad Barre from Somaliland.
Somalia descended into chaos when Somaliland declared their separate state. The new Somaliland government also held a referendum for its people regarding the fate of the people under its jurisdiction. The referendum was in a whopping 97% for a secession. This outpour of support from the subjects set the leaders on the path to recognitions. Since this reform, Somaliland has morphed into a functioning democracy with a thriving economy. The recurring question in every Somalilander’s mind was, however, why the international community did not accept their referendum and secession by recognizing Somaliland as an independent country.
The answer to this question is multifaceted and complex. For starters, the African Union is deeply worried about other separatist groups and the possibility that granting Somaliland recognition will trigger other secessionist states and warring separatists groups, rattling the already shaky borders. Somaliland’s state of international recognition is further complicated by the fact that Somalia is still recovering from a quarter of a century of violent conflict. Also, if Somaliland is recognized, other clan enclaves within Somalia will also demand autonomy if not secession.
Needless to say, Somaliland maintains informal diplomatic relations with some African and European countries, as well as the United States. The government in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, also recognizes Somaliland as an autonomous region. This bears a close resemblance with Taiwan’s relationship with China, although Somaliland fares worse. Somaliland's lack of international recognition nails Somaliland to Somalia, a hotbed for terrorism. In addition, this association means that President Donald Trump’s executive orders effectively isolates Somaliland’s self-declared citizens. For example, there are about eighty students from Somaliland in the United States. Due to lack of recognition, most Americans think this is because they are being educated here because they are from a region known for poverty and corruption, a quarter of a century old. In reality, however, they are from Somaliland, “Africa’s best kept secret”, and are here to, like all Americans, make a better life for themselves.